The Science of Motivation

Do You See Life Via a Glass Half Full or Half Empty Mindset?


How’s life? How do you view life? Do you view life through a lens like Pollyanna, where everything is possible and even the most challenging issues are easily solved? Or, do you see life like Eeyore the donkey, always certain that the worst is the norm?


In general terms, how we do anything is how we do everything, so your mindset really matters. Having a glass half full or glass half empty mindset will lead to clues about your confidence, your take on life, and translates to the success you have.


Let’s take a look at characteristics of each mindset and see where your thoughts tend to go.

A glass half full mindset tends to look like this:

     Life has challenges, but things always work out
     People are generally good
     Nothing comes up that can’t be managed
     Bad things happen but they aren’t the norm


A glass half empty mindset tends to look like this:

     People are self-serving and must be watched
     If something bad is going to happen, it usually will
     Good times never last for long
     Good things are rare; working hard is the norm


Which do you believe you are?

People tend to become a glass half full or half empty thinker based on circumstances and the influences they have over time. Families who live in pessimism tend to feel fear and see the world through a glass half empty mindset. They produce kids who are also fearful and filter life through that lens. It’s what they know and don’t always notice that they are subconsciously looking for what’s wrong over what is fabulous about life.


Families who embrace that bad things happen with a similar frequency to good things tend to have an optimistic view of life. They recognize that some things are beyond anyone’s control and that how they manage their reaction to anything tends to influence their experience with it. They tend to raise kids who have a healthy mindset that looks for the good in people and the best possible outcome in any situation.


How you view life today - through a glass half full or half empty metaphor - is either serving you well or holding you back. The good news is, if you want to shift your mindset, it can be done. Learning to view the world in a new way is possible with conscious thinking and making some simple shifts in your thought processes.

Three Traits Optimistic People Share

If you spend much time around optimistic people, you pick up on traits they have in common. There are behaviors that people who see life’s glass as half full share, and those traits are worth emulating. You may have these traits or witness them in others.


Here they are:

     They don’t sweat the small stuff
     They don’t take impersonal things personally
     They aren’t affected by their moods


These traits aren’t the only characteristics of optimistic people, but they are some of the best examples out there to see life in a better way and become a glass half full sort of person.


Here’s how:

Don’t sweat the small stuff- Optimistic people come at life from the reference point that everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances they are in. Things are going to happen – good things and bad things – and should be accepted with grace and ease. There is a solution for every problem and a way through every dilemma.


Not sweating the small stuff includes leaving pettiness and small mindedness out of life. Knowing that things aren’t perfect and that is not a reflection on character. Not sweating the small stuff includes being quick to forgive and overlooking things that don’t really matter in the bigger picture.


Don’t take impersonal things personally- People who are optimistic see the best in others. They realize that a rude store clerk may be having issues that prevent them from showing up their best that day. They have a sense of empathy that allows them to see beyond the immediate presentation. Instead of reacting to a rude clerk, they engage the clerk in polite small talk and try to bring them out of their bad mood.  


Optimistic people understand that things come up and plans change, and they don’t get their feathers ruffled when there is a wrinkle in a plan. Instead of assuming something negative, they roll with the changes and continue on without feeling bad. Optimistic people don’t tie their own worth and value to someone else and whether or not the other person is paying enough attention to them.


Don’t be affected by mood- Optimistic people are on an even keel. They don’t let the ups and downs of life dictate their mood. Optimistic people know that things ebb and flow, and they maintain control of their spirit and mood regardless of other people or circumstances. Someone stealing a parking space won’t send them into a rage. Someone cutting them off on the freeway won’t ruin their day. They release the feelings that don’t suit them and move on – focusing on what is working rather than what isn’t.


Seeing the glass as half full comes from having an optimistic view of life. That optimism comes from being able to let the small annoyances of life go in favor of the bigger picture. The character traits of optimistic people are worth emulating and making a part of your mindset tool chest. 

Pro-Tips to Become More Optimistic 

If optimism isn’t your second nature, it might be time to make changes towards a more optimistic mindset. No matter what nature you were born with or nurture you have grown up with, you can change your mindset if you know what to do.


Here are some pro-tips for leading a more optimistic lifestyle:

Change your surroundings:

Media- From the news media to social media, your surroundings are influencing your mindset. Do you listen to too much news, read too many newspapers, and fill your subconscious with negative thoughts? In any given day, you can be overwhelmed with sensationalized media that puts its focus on everything that is going wrong. From political rhetoric to mother nature, there is far more than one person’s far share of bad news out there. Limit your intake of negative media and replace it with positive sources of news and entertainment. Change your channels, hide or delete negative people on social media, and follow people who see the glass half full.


Friendships- Toxic friendships and other relationships have a huge impact on our sense of self and how we view the world. Being in multiple dysfunctional relationships dims the reality that life – and people – should be fun. We are the sum of the five people we are with most often. Make sure that your five people are fabulous. If they aren’t, begin to limit your time with them and seek out new and higher-functioning friends.


Expand your horizons:

Travel more- Living in one space and never venturing out can lead to pessimism. Getting outside of your immediate area allows your mind to expand and see the world through a new lens. Often, we live in isolation in our own spaces, and leaving them – especially by international travel – allows us to see the world through other’s eyes. Seeing the similarities in other countries and other people often expands compassion, causes hope, and makes life better.


Read more- Biographies and historical accounts are a great way to increase optimism. Reading about great men and women who overcame odds or solved complex problems causes us to see that life isn’t as complicated as we make it. There are solutions for all problems and being inspired by people who faced adversity and conquered it makes a big impact on our own optimism.


Volunteer more- Getting out and being in service to others is an excellent way to grow optimism. If you hear of a tragedy and only follow the media coverage, you will not realize the tremendous acts of bravery, heroism, resiliency, and growth of the human spirit. Being in the trenches or serving someone who can’t repay you brings a humility and empathy that expands optimism.  


Making some changes and expanding yourself are great ways to quickly become more optimistic. Watch what you allow into your life and make good decisions about how you spend your time, and your optimism will follow.

Reduce the Risk of Being Negative by Changing This One Thing

If you’ve lived a lifetime being a Negative Nancy, it can be hard to turn it around. Changing poor habits in your life can reduce the risk of being negative and set you up for a more successful – and optimistic life. What is the best way to make change and stop the negativity? Watch what you say.


Your mouth is the gateway for all your conversations. How you speak and what you speak directly impacts those in earshot. Doing what you can to change what comes out of your mouth will go a long way for changing your mindset towards optimism.


Have you given much thought to how your mouth can get you into trouble? From speaking poorly of others to admonishing people for every misstep, your mouth may be the trap that is keeping you from being more optimistic.


What we say can encourage or deflate those we love. Being negative and pointing out flaws can ruin esteem and cause strife. These are destructive and lead to breakdowns in relationships. Those bad situations affect our ability to see the good in others, and therefore, in the world.


Here are some ways you can use your words for the better – to build esteem, foster healthy relationships, and see the world through a glass half full mindset.


Don’t Gossip- Refuse to engage in gossip. If you can’t avoid the conversation, remove yourself from the situation. Avoiding gossip will help you value all people and be seen as a trustworthy friend.


Give Compliments- There is always something worth complimenting. Positive reinforcement is an easy way to uplift and encourage others. Find one thing to compliment someone on and watch their spirits soar and your optimism follow suit.


Be Encouraging- Similar to compliments, encouragement is a kindness that everyone needs. Being encouraging and offering supportive commentary helps improve morale and mood. Gently sharing your positive thoughts about someone else helps them view you, and the world, through a glass half full lens.


By changing how you speak, you reduce the risk of being negative. What you say about yourself and about others dictates if you see the glass half full or half empty. Practice polite conversation and positive engagement, and you are sure to become more optimistic.

Alternatives to Thinking Negative Thoughts 

Do you have a tendency to get carried away with your thoughts? Do you fall into a spiral of negativity when fear and anxiety creep into your mind? Focusing on any thought – good or bad – for too long will expand the thoughts. We can’t always control what triggers a negative thought, but we can do something to shake things up when they happen.


Our most vulnerable times for prolonged thinking are when we are alone with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company. Examples might be:

     In the car
     Working at a desk
     Falling asleep
     Exercising


Times when we are alone awaken our mind, and our inner dialogue runs rampant. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you are thinking about. If negative thoughts creep into your head, consider these alternatives to thinking negative thoughts:

Change the atmosphere- If you are on a long drive and feel consumed with negative thoughts, switch things up. Stop for a refreshing cold drink and stretch your legs. Start a conversation with someone in the coffee shop and get your mind on something else. Roll down the window or change the radio station to something upbeat with a positive message. Listen to a podcast or book on tape and let your mind escape.


Be prepared- If you know that you have a trigger or tendency for negative thoughts, prepare an alternative action for when they happen. A term behavior modification describes the planned change of activity that occurs when an unwanted experience or action takes place. An example might be snapping a band on your wrist whenever you think a negative thought. Or, singing the chorus to an upbeat song to interrupt the negative thought process. Pre-plan an escape for your negative thinking and be prepared to battle the negativity on the front lines.


Work things out- Sometimes negativity is a reminder that there is important or unfinished business at hand. If your negative self-talk is tied to procrastination or an urging to take care of important business, do the right thing and the negative self-talk will turn into praise.


Get into community- If your negative self-talk is distracting you, connect with a buddy or a member of your community and get support. Whether it is pre-planned or spur of the moment, seeking companionship is an ideal way to disrupt negative thinking and get back into a positive mindset.


You can turn your negative thinking into more positive and productive uses of your mind. Take action to interrupt the patterns that cause you to think negatively and find alternatives that work for you. Before long, you will nip the negative thinking in the bud and positive thinking will bloom.